Why Draining Your Hot Water Heater Might Be A Mistake
This thing happens in the DIY blogosphere. Someone gets up on YouTube and gives a tutorial on how to clean out the sediment from your water heater. You’ve read a bunch of articles online, on reputable-looking websites, telling you that you must drain your water heater to flush out the sediment. They don’t mention one important caveat, though: It’s a very good idea to remove sediment from your tank water heater, but if you haven’t done it in years, flushing your water heater may cause problems you never imagined.
This is what can happen to your hot water heater if it’s been collecting sediment for years, and you suddenly drain it: the water heater will spring a leak. According to Woodbridge Environmental, a contractor and home inspector, “In some towns where they flush their fire hydrants to keep the pipes clear, it is suggested to follow their lead a few days after, as any sediment that is disturbed ends up on the bottom of your heater.
“What happens then is water displacement. The sandy that collect on the bottom of the tank displace the water ever so slightly. This results in hot spots on the bottom of the tank. When this occurs the flames overheat the tank and begin to break down the steel. After many years this breakdown ends up becoming a tiny hole that is filled with this debris, oftentimes preventing the leak.
“So the moral is to flush yearly, but if you have not done so for many years to not touch it or you will end up with a leak.”
An Important Word Of Advice:
If you haven’t flushed your hot water tank in a number of years, you may be better off having a Licensed Plumber do it for you. You run the risk of activating leaks. It’s possible that the sediment that has been there for years has caused fissures in the bottom of the tank. The existing sediment is plugging those fissures but once you drain and flush the hot water tank, it could remove the sediment that is “sealing” the leaks.
Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t drain your tank and I’m also not suggesting that if you haven’t flushed it in a number of years, you’re going to have a leak in your tank. By calling a Licensed Plumber to do the task, if it does leak, then you’ve got the right person on hand to deal with it.
If Properly Maintained Your Water Heater Should Last About 10 Years But How Exactly Do You Maintain Your Water Heater
Is it possible to clean the inside of your water tank? If so, how often should you clean it? The answers to these questions depend on many factors, but especially on the type of water heater you own.
You dont need to drain your electric water heater if your water supply comes from a municipal water system and the quality of your water is good. New electric models do not require flushing, and there is no indication that draining your appliance will extend its lifespan. Some specialists go so far as to say that flushing your water heater could increase the proliferation of bacteria or cause rust to appear in the tank!
However, if your water heater is connected to a water well and the water is hard, contains iron or is rich in calcium because of where you live, regular flushing is recommended.
You May Like: Clean Ac Drain Line Vinegar
Allow The Water To Become Cool
If your heater is working, the water in it can be extremely hot. It can cause you injury, so its best to allow your heater to get to room temperature by keeping it off overnight. This way, the water will cool down before you flush it.
Of course, it might be annoying to wait overnight. In that case, you can at least wait for few hours to save yourself from injuries. You can also take hot showers, as it will help speed up the process.
What If My Tank Won’t Drain
If your tank is draining slowly or not at all, try opening the temperature / pressure relief valve on the hot water tank. This is located near the top of the hot water tank. It’s usually a lever you can lift up or down and there is a pipe that runs from it down to the base of the tank. Opening up the TPR valve may open up a potential vacuum inside the tank that’s preventing water from draining.
It’s also possible that there’s so much sediment inside your tank that it is clogging the drain valve. This is where calling a Licensed Plumber is the best course of action.
Also Check: How To Install Bathroom Sink Drain
Allow The Water To Cool
While this is technically an optional step, it will reduce the risk of burns and any potential hot water damage. For the most convenient solution, you can let the water cool overnight or throughout the workday .
If you are in a rush, you can also drain the hot water by opening a faucet until the water runs cold, allowing the water in the tank to be replaced by cold water. However, you must perform this step between turning off the water heater and turning off the water supply or it will not work. It will also waste a significant amount of water.
Before You Begin A Water Heater Flush
Prior to draining the tank, you need to figure out how to turn off your gas water heater. A vacation setting might do the trick. You should also find out whether its pilot light must be lit manually. The best source for this information is the original owners manual, because pilot lighting procedures vary among models. If you dont have a manual, check the water heaters label for a brand name and model number and try to look up the manual online. There may also be pilot lighting instructions printed on a label on the tank.
Also Check: How To Drain Water Heater
Turn Off The Power To The Water Heater
It’s important to shut off the power to your water heater before draining it, or you could potentially burn out the heating elements. If you have an electric water heater, shut the power off from your home’s electrical panel. The correct fuse or circuit breaker should be labeled as being connected to the water heater.
If it’s a gas water heater, the DIY Network says you can turn the water heater’s thermostat to “pilot” for this step. Or, The Family Handyman says to shut off the gas supply to the heater. Check your owner’s manual and follow the instructions provided for your specific water heater.
Why Does My Water Tank Need Cleaning
Hard water is a bit of a misnomer. It is not as though that water somehow feels sharper as it flows through a faucet. Rather, the term hard water means water that has certain kinds of minerals. Practically anywhere has hard water, but the degree to which it is hard varies between regions. While many minerals are benign or even helpful to consume, they can be hard on your plumbing. Over time, those minerals accumulate in your water heater tank, along with sediment coming from the citys water supply. Imagine taking a bucket of water and filling it with water and a little sand, then dumping it out. If you do not rinse out the bucket from time to time, eventually the sand will fill it up.
Read Also: Best Kitchen Sink Drain Cleaner
Checking Your T& p Valve
At times, this valve can run into issues. It can become stuck, oras discussed aboveinterior scaling can block it. To ensure its working properly, you should test the T& P valve every year. Put a bucket below the discharge pipe and flip the valve open. You should have water come through the valve, down the pipe, and into the bucket.
If not, theres something wrong with your valve, and you need to call in a plumbing professional right away.
Reasons For Draining A Water Heater
As sediment accumulates at the bottom of your tank, no matter the quantity, it can gradually make your tank work harder to heat the water. This in turn means youre throwing more money at your utility bills each month.
An additional risk is that the buildup of sediment can damage your water heater over time. This sediment, usually composed of various minerals or scattered debris, can eventually cause your tank to malfunction.
The idea behind draining a water heater regularly is that removing this sediment can lengthen its lifespan, earning you hot showers for longer. After all, a clean and unclogged water heater doesnt have to work as hard to keep your water warm!
Recommended Reading: My Frigidaire Dishwasher Won’t Drain
Signs You May Need To Drain Your Water Heater
It can be hard to diagnose whats going inside the metal walls of your water heater. Without a way to see inside, its hard to say with 100% certainty that your tank needs draining until youre doing it. As you try to decide the best course of action, here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
- No or little hot water. If your water heater tank isnt actually heating your water, its likely a sign of either a faulty burner or a buildup of sediment inside. In this case, you should drain your tank. Depending on the type of buildup, you might also need to add cleaning chemicals such as vinegar or a lime descalerbut if you arent sure what minerals are at play, call an expert for help.
- Strange smells. These odors may mean there are bacteria at work in the sediment buildup. If so, you may need a plumber to sanitize the tank and drain it for you.
- Unusual noises. Loose sediment within the tank can scrape against the metal as the water enters and leaves the tank.
Close Valve Refill Tank Restart Water Heater
Close the drain valve, remove the hose and turn on the cold water supply. The tank will begin to fill. Go back to the hot water tap opened earlier. Once cold water begins to flow from the tap, turn it off. Turn the gas valve back on from the pilot position or turn electricity back on to the tank. Be sure to check the valve opening once it’s closed to ensure there are no water leaks.
Caution: Some tanks must be completely full to avoid damage to the gas burner or heating elements. Always read and follow all manufacturer’s directions and warnings for your particular water heater.
You May Like: How To Drain Pus From Ingrown Toenail
How Do I Make My Hot Water Heater Last Longer
They say age is just a number. For your water heater, however, that number is eventually going to catch up with your system. If you think about what water heaters essentially arewater, metal, heat, pressureyoull probably understand why even high-quality water heater tanks only last 15-20 years at most. But, you can help yours get to the top of that lifespan range by:
Flushing and draining your water heater at least annually, if not 2-3 times per-year. Testing the pressure-relief valve at least once per-year. Calling a plumber at the first sign of any trouble.
That last item is especially important. If youre noticing anything strangefrom odd sounds to leaks on the tanks surfaceyou need to have a plumbing professional out to your home for a closer look. If the issue is caught early, you may be able to save your water heater and get a few more effective years out of it.
Wagner is the team to call here in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Our plumbers are water heater professionals. We can help you maintain, repair, or replace your water heater. As always, were more than happy to answer all your questions. Well help ensure your water heater stays in top condition for years to come.
Turn Off The Water Heater
Shut off the gas to your water heater, or shut off the power if it is an electric heater. Now shut off the water, using either the valve in the cold-water pipe above the water heater or the main water supply valve to the house. Make sure the pressure is off by testing the hot water faucets in the house, turning them on, and checking for water. Water may gush out at first, but should quickly slow to a trickle if the water has been shut off properly. Be sure to leave a hot water tap open in the sink nearest to your hot water heater to alleviate pressure in the system.
The Spruce / Kevin Norris
Read Also: Buildup In Toilet Drain Pipe
What Is The Purpose Of Draining Your Water Heater
Calcium and magnesium ions, together referred to as hardness minerals, are found in tap water. As water travels in and out of your water heater, the minerals in the water settle to the bottom of the tank of your appliance. As a result of the accumulation of minerals in your water heaters heating elements and the real water contained within the device, the heat transmission process between the two becomes slowed or completely stopped. This has the potential to significantly reduce the efficiency of your water heater.
This is an important preventative maintenance activity that will significantly increase the efficiency and lifetime of a water heater.
Can Sediment Affect My Plumbing Pipes Or Water
The short answer is yes! The sediment or crusty material on the bottom of your tank can break free and end up getting lodged in the pipes that feed water to the rest of your home. This can slow the flow of water through your pipes and faucets. It can even risk plugging the drain valve on your hot water tank making it impossible to drain it without a significant plumbing repair.
Read Also: What Is Drain Tile In Basement
Wrap Up The Draining Process And Allow The Tank To Refill
Close the drain valve, then remove the garden hose. Turn the cold water supply on and let the tank fill. Keep the faucet from step No.5 open so that any air trapped in the system can escape.
Wait until the faucet is running at full pressure with no hesitation in water flow, then turn it off. This indicates your tank is full again. Note that the water should still be cold. Turn on the water heater again. After at least 30 minutes, your hot water should be running like normal. For gas, turn the thermostat back to its original setting, and for electric, turn the power back on at the electrical panel or fuse box.
Water Heater Maintenance Tips
- Flush your water heater every six months or so. If you have harder water, or water that contains more minerals, you may want to flush it more often.
- If you leave town, change your water heater to its vacation setting. The pilot light will stay on, but the water will not be heated.
- Drain your tank and remove sediment.
- Check your anode rod regularly, as it’s an important part of the water heater.
- If you notice your water heater leaking, it may be caused by a loose drain valve. Tighten with a wrench until snug.
- Test the temperature release valve annually.
- If your unit is older, insulate its pipes and the heater.
- Turn the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Tankless water heater maintenance: Good news about tankless water heaters is that they don’t require much maintenance. However, it’s recommended they be serviced once a year.
- Electric vs. gas water heater maintenance: Both electric water heaters and gas water heaters can be maintained in similar ways. Both types of water heaters should be flushed regularly to prevent a build-up of rust and corrosion.
- If you’re looking for more energy-efficient water heaters, look into hybrid water heaters.
You May Like: Bathroom Sink Drain With Stopper
What Is The Difference Between Flushing And Draining A Water Heater
Some people confuse flushing with draining, and they also ask, how often should I drain my water heater?
While draining and flushing a water heater can have the same goal, they differ in the water source status.
When you drain your hot water tank, you empty its contents by closing the valve that regulates water flow to the water heater. You can then drain the water in the tank by opening a nearby faucet and the drain valve at the hot water tanks bottom section.
Draining the tank allows you to spray the interior with water as you would when cleaning the insides of a water container. However, water heater manufacturers advise against using high-pressure water jets because it might damage the heating elements and other water heater components.
One must also not use harsh chemicals in cleaning the water heaters interior, unless the manufacturer recommends a specific cleaner. In general, people can use apple cider vinegar to wash and clean the water heaters interior.
On the other hand, flushing needs a continuous water flow, requiring the cold water shutoff valve to stay open while the water goes out through the drain valve. The constant water movement washes away sediments, hard mineral deposits, and other particles in the water.
The continuous water flow replaces the water in the tank with clean and fresh water.
Flushing can be done any time you have stale water, while draining should happen several times annually.
Checking Your T P Valve
This valve may experience difficulties from time to time. It can become stuck, or, as previously described, internal scaling can cause it to become blocked. You should check the T P valve once a year to verify that it is in proper operating order. Place a bucket beneath the discharge pipe and turn the valve to the open position. Make sure you have water flowing through the valve and down into the pipe and into the bucket. If this is not the case, there is something wrong with your valve, and you should contact a plumbing specialist immediately.
Don’t Miss: Kohler Round Grid Shower Drain